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Word of Nick Prettejohn’s imminent exit from the chief executive’s chair at Lloyd’s of London for a new role at Prudential brought back some unpleasant memories.

Prettejohn was not a man to bother with airs and graces. Journalists, in his
view, were the lowest form of life and best ignored. He took a particular
dislike to James ‘Can I cadge a cigarette?’ Moore, cub reporter at the
Daily Telegraph.

Perhaps that’s what comes of spending time at Oxford with William Hague.

Prettejohn could hardly have been more different from his predecessors. In
the early 1990s, when Lloyd’s looked as though it might collapse under the
weight of billions of pounds of claims, the market was steered by the wacky but
likeable Peter Middleton, a former spy who had taken the corporate shilling.

Middleton enjoyed being photographed posing on his chrome-emblazoned Easy
Rider-style motorcycle.

He was succeeded by Ron Sandler, a man with a magnificent beard. He was the
polar opposite of Middleton, quiet and cerebral, yet he told it like it was and
at least had a glimmer of personality.

Prettejohn kept his personality well-hidden. He arrived armed with business
school theories and implemented them with robotic precision. I can forgive him
most things but not for what he did to the Lloyd’s press office. Veterans like
Peter Hill and Nick Doak were walking encyclopaedias about everything to do with
Lloyd’s.

With just a few years to go to retirement, they fell victim to clinical
cost-cutting.

What happened to those men was a disgrace and forever tainted my impression
of this venerable Lime Street institution. Business is about real people with
real lives, not just names in a ledger.

Jon Ashworth is a freelance journalist and writer

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